Between the Shtetl and the New World
J.I. Segal
J.I. Segal's poetry captures not only his experiences but also the immigrant's struggle to either belong or assimilate. His own impoverished childhood in the shtetl of Korets was a lasting influence on his writing. Segal arrived in Montreal at the age of 15 in 1911, assisted in his immigration by two older siblings, Nechmiah and Esther, both of whom later published their own poetry. Working as a stitcher of pants pockets in a clothing factory, Segal abhorred the tedium and loneliness of such an existence. He looked to poetry as an escape and as an expression of himself.

Like so many of his contemporaries, Segal found an outlet for his craft through working for the Keneder Odler, publishing his first piece, a love poem, in its pages in 1915. His debut in the Odler led to further contributions of essays, articles and poetry in additional North American Yiddish periodicals. By 1918, Segal published his first collection of Yiddish poety, Fun mayn velt.

In 1920, Segal began teaching Yiddish at the Jewish People's School but left shortly after to try life in New York. Upon returning to Montreal in 1923 after the tragic death of one of his daughters, Segal continued his association with the Keneder Odler working on the editorial staff in addition to publishing his own poetry. His last work was published in 1950. In total, Segal created 10 volumes of poetry plus two more published posthumously. His work continues to influence Jewish and non-Jewish writers and poets, his words a reflection of the struggle between old world and new world, between the language of the folk and the prayer of the religious.
Portrait, J.I. Segal
J.I. Segal
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